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The Cambridge History of Nineteenth-Century Music
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    Brincker, Benedikte and Brincker, Jens 2017. Musical constructions of nationalism: a comparative study of Bartok and Stravinsky. Nations and Nationalism, Vol. 10, Issue. 4, p. 579.

    Locke, Ralph P. 2017. Nineteenth-Century Music: Quantity, Quality, Qualities. Nineteenth-Century Music Review, Vol. 1, Issue. 01, p. 3.

  • Edited by Jim Samson, Royal Holloway, University of London

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Book description

This comprehensive overview of music in the nineteenth century draws on the most recent scholarship in the field. It avoids mere repertory surveys, focusing instead on issues which illuminate the subject in novel and interesting ways. The book is divided into two parts (1800–1850 and 1850–1900), each of which approaches the major repertory of the period by way of essays investigating the intellectual and socio-political history of the time. The music itself is discussed in five central chapters within each part, amplified by essays on topics such as popular culture, nationalism, genius, and the emergent concept of an avant-garde. The book concludes with an examination of musical styles and languages around the turn of the century. The addition of a detailed chronology and extensive glossaries makes this the most informed reference book on nineteenth-century music currently available.


'… a comprehensive, impressive overview of the music of the period in question … Jim Samson has assembled an equally impressive selection of Anglo-American musicological minds to write it with him. There is in fact nothing gimmicky here, but much to admire. The book on its own terms remains a significant contribution to the current literature, of which any publisher should be proud.'

Source: Musical Times

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  • Part One - 1800–1850
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    Two strategies are prominent in histories of nineteenth-century music: intertextuality and individuation. The history of nineteenth-century music is a history of works, composers and performers; traditions, media and styles; and institutions, ideas and responses. In a bold generalisation about changing historical phases in the theory of art, Carl Dahlhaus allowed the nineteenth century to embrace two developments. The first is centred on the biographies of individual composers. The second is based on the structure of self-contained works. The present-day subject inclines to a reductionist view of the past, allowing an analytical quest for common principles to subordinate constitutive diversity to an identity principle. At almost every stage, a history of music engages in rationalisations. There are two rationalisations of history, one is based on geography and the other on temporality. The first invokes the notion of centres and peripheries. The second rationalisation is the periodisation of history.
  • 2 - Music And the rise of aesthetics
    pp 29-54
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    The development of aesthetics from the middle of the eighteenth century onwards and the changes in the status of music associated with the rise of Romanticism form a constellation, which has affected many aspects of modern thought. The connection of affect theory to rhetoric presupposes a transparent relationship between language and music, with the former as the dominant partner. The essential division in nineteenth-century music aesthetics results from differing attitudes to the non-inferential immediacy of feeling in relation to the aesthetic, as well as from the conceptions of the self associated with the aesthetic. This chapter also outlines the early work of F. W. J. Schelling, who is located between the Romantic thinking, and the German Idealist thinking of Hegel. Schopenhauer's philosophical work suggested that the true world is the world as 'will', which cannot itself appear, and is intuitively present in feeling, hence its connection to music.
  • 3 - The profession of music
    pp 55-86
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    This chapter explores a rich seam within music's economic and social history during the first half of the nineteenth century. It offers case-study illustrations drawn from a broad spectrum of professions, geographic locations and consumers. The first part of the chapter paves the way for a survey of the principal professions by defining such contexts as the music profession before 1800, political and demographic developments early in the century, and the structure of concert life. Some of the main types of concerts that flourished during the first half of the century include institutional concerts, benefit concerts, and those held during festivals and promenades. Paris boasted of a musical culture in which opera's influence was universally felt. The second part of the chapter presents a catalogue of professions, including composers, solo instrumentalists, singers, conductors, orchestral and chamber musicians, church musicians, instrument makers, publishers, music journalists, teachers and scholars. The role of the amateur is also addressed.
  • 4 - The opera industry
    pp 87-117
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    Towards the end of the eighteenth century, regular operatic performances could be seen through much of Europe. This chapter on the nineteenth-century opera industry is organised around chronological divisions that have strong political resonance. Imperial opera began in France, the motor of political change in mainland Europe during the century's first decade. The revolutionary turmoil of the 1790s had stimulated operatic activity in a way that later revolutions would not, at least overtly. After opening his career with farces and lighter comic operas, Gioachino Rossini's breakthrough into national and then international prominence came in 1813. Although Italian composers such as Vincenzo Bellini and Gaetano Donizetti looked towards Parisian style opera, three most influential composers of the 1850s and 1860s, Giacomo Meyerbeer, Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner, to some extent reinscribed a sense of national difference. The years around 1830 also saw a marked change in vocal type that occurred over much of Europe (albeit with regional variations).
  • 5 - The construction of Beethoven
    pp 118-150
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    This chapter begins with a young woman's letter to the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, describing her new acquaintance, Ludwig van Beethoven. It explores how history has lost sight of Beethoven, the person, in favour of Beethoven, the myth. The chapter highlights several key issues where the selection and suppression of evidence is most striking. It focuses on how descriptions of Beethoven's early promise and arrival in Vienna, his piano technique and his composition lessons with Haydn have led to assumptions about his personality. The chapter examines the ways in which Beethoven's music was received and classified in the context of his deafness. It scrutinises the nineteenth century's fascination with certain themes: in particular, how and why Beethoven was transformed into the strong, masculine hero of German nationalism. The privileging of improvisation over performance, and the implication that Beethoven's style at the keyboard was somehow different are all important themes that run through early descriptions of Beethoven's technique.
  • 6 - Music and the poetic
    pp 151-177
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    Beethoven (particularly by the Ninth Symphony) has an interest in associating music with narrative, poetry, and visual imagery, leading to new genres such as the piano cycle, the programme overture and symphony, and the symphonic poem. In the realm of the musically poetic, poetry is conceived as the direction of imaginative experience beyond the perceptible limits of the (musical) communication itself. Much of the peculiarity of nineteenth-century art music results from the inter-penetration, co-ordination or synthesis of the arts. Within the ambit of instrumental and domestic music, the period is typified by exploitation of different dance types such as the Polonaise and waltz, and by pieces with evocative titles. Other works aspire to narrate, whether a well-known story or one specially concocted. But if one had to select a genre, and a composer within that genre, to epitomise what was new in music of the first thirty years of the century, it should surely be song, and Franz Schubert.
  • 7 - The invention of tradition
    pp 178-212
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    Goethe's letter to Carl Friedrich Zelter in November 1829, in some respects, sheds light upon the relationship between early Romantic instrumental music and its immediate Classical past. The evocation of an ideal mode of Enlightenment conversation suggests a nostalgia for a past, even if that past were nothing but an imagined construction, in relation to which the early Romantic present might be situated. Theoretical writings played a highly important part in the establishment of the Viennese Classical style wherein early Romantic composers acquired iconic status, representatives of a glorious past to be admired and emulated. Current critical thinking on Romanticism tends to stress its contiguity with earlier stylistic trends. The instrumental music of the early nineteenth century exhibits continuity with the recent Enlightenment past while simultaneously reaching out on new paths, a context within which, for instance, the chamber music of Robert Schumann might usefully be understood.
  • 8 - Choral music
    pp 213-236
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    The most striking collapse of traditional choral foundations was in France, where the ecclesiastical establishment was so often seen as part of the ancien régime during the Revolution years. The new choral movements, distinct as they were from the old ecclesiastical foundations, can be associated with the various forms of social and political revolutions. An alternative approach is to suggest that the revolutionary spirit of the nineteenth century is balanced by a spirit of restoration or historicist revival. Mendelssohn was a major figure in the new German choral institutions, and as a classical composer as per Carl Dahlhaus, his upbringing and compositional stance show remarkable continuities with the past. However historicist the conditions that made the St Matthew Passion revival possible there are many ways in which the entire event, and the way it was presented to the public at the time, is very much part of the concerns of the present in 1829 and of predictions for the future.
  • 9 - The consumption of music
    pp 237-258
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    In the ensuing age of capital, after the French and Industrial Revolutions, the rise of the bourgeoisie and its relationship with the nobility is complex and important, and a degree of generalisation must be forgiven in what is a musical, rather than a social, history. This chapter is concerned with the principal areas of Europe in which it is evident: Great Britain, France and the German-speaking lands. The Austrian bourgeois' communal entertainments of parlour or drawing-room in which everyone joined and to which everyone contributed, the vital element of which was music. The music or entertainment-with-music varied with the day of the week and the season of the year. The most compelling expression of the high-low, emotional-cerebral, instrumental-vocal axes was the great consumption of folksong during the early nineteenth century. The early nineteenth-century bourgeois patriarch could relax in the bosom of his family, and listen to music concerts at his home.
  • 10 - The great composer
    pp 259-284
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    The language of music criticism in the early nineteenth century tells part of a story, registering a subtle shift from the acknowledgement of excellence to the recognition of greatness. The symphonic tradition, already a reality in the 1830s and 1840s, was to become a central building-block not only of the musical canon but of the idea of the German nation. Even as canonic and avant-garde repertories separated out on one level, they drew closer together on another. In no previous era did new composition claim so heavy a dependence on exemplary models from the past, as the polemics of the 1850s testify. The attempts to demonstrate that the great works of the present, the avant-garde, were no less organically conceived than the great works of the past, the canon. These two categories of greatness shared common cause in the politics of culture.
  • Part Two - 1850–1900
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    In the writings of the historians of the interrelated groups of ideas loosely associated with modernism, the avant-garde is the point at which notions of the original creative genius and progress start to come apart. Franz Liszt and his circle seldom wrote of modernism or of the avant-garde. Where the latter term has been applied to Liszt, it has usually been with the intention of labelling him as a forerunner. It is often hard to extricate the Saint-Simonian doctrine from other ideas that Liszt derived from French thinkers and that the followers of Saint-Simon shared with many writers of the period. This strain of Idealism in Liszt's thinking had an inevitable effect on his notion of musical progress. Although Franz Brendel's views on musical progress depended on the history of works and genres, he did share Liszt's enthusiasm for the artist-critic, a feature that has perhaps been slightly overemphasized.
  • 12 - Music as ideal: the aesthetics of autonomy
    pp 318-342
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    The extent of music's penetration across the arts can be gauged from the fact that music is the touchstone for all aesthetic experience. The first half of the nineteenth century saw the birth of the concept of autonomy, besides the idea of absolute music. The disenchantment following the failure of the 1848 revolutions across Europe, and the general retreat of the arts from social engagement into the inwardness which had characterised the German Romantic aesthetic from the earlier part of the century, sowed, in the period of late Romanticism, the seeds of modernism and the avant-garde. Arthur Schopenhauer is probably, next to Friedrich Nietzsche, the most influential philosopher of the second half of the century. For Schopenhauer the power of art is the joining of the sensuous particular and the world of universal Ideas. The chapter also discusses the consideration of Nietzsche's position regarding the relation between form and expression after an examination of Eduard Hanslick's concept of form.
  • 13 - The structures of musical life
    pp 343-370
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    Many structures, which became accepted as staples of musical life in the late nineteenth century, had their roots in earlier traditions. In the sphere of art music, the second half of the nineteenth century saw the consolidation and wider dissemination of many of the structures and institutions which had been set up in Europe during the preceding decades, and which were now developing worldwide and gaining in status. By way of discussions of urban musical life, repertory and canon, elitism, moral improvement, gender and education, this chapter examines the institutions, practices, and assumptions which underpinned an increasingly globalised culture in which particular repertories of Western art music were canonised as pinnacles of musical achievement and set apart from other forms of musical entertainment. It concentrates essentially on the middle-class experience, both in itself and in the cultural relations which existed between the middle classes and those above and below them in the social hierarchy.
  • 14 - Opera and music drama
    pp 371-423
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    The dialectic of Wagner vs. Meyerbeer, as manifested in the examples of Lohengrin and Le prophète, informs a broad spectrum of the operatic repertory to nearly the end of the century. The dialectical influence of Wagner and Meyerbeer across the later nineteenth century is revealed in the ease with which composers could turn from one to the other model within the space of a number or scene with almost no risk of stylistic, structural or dramaturgical incongruity. The most characteristic works of the 1850s were those that turned away from epic-historical spectacle and explored a newly intimate and intense mode of expression, refining the leaner, more direct manner of the Italian lyric tradition even where the subjects were drawn from French dramatic sources, as in Rigoletto, La traviata, or Un ballo in maschera. Reasonably ambitious comic operas were attempted by the likes of Peter Cornelius, Hermann Goetz, Hector Berlioz and Emanuel Chabrier.
  • 15 - Beethoven reception: the symphonic tradition
    pp 424-459
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    Symphonic practice in later nineteenth-century Europe was no unitary activity that we should collapse into a crisp, linear narrative. Spurred also by external factors such as technological, economic, political, ethnic-national, the symphonic crisis invited a number of solutions: it had been disseminated to several different publics on several different terms. Once precipitated into such detailed language, sonata-symphonic practice and its most prestigious constituent, 'sonata form' (the term famously coined by Marx), became objects open to quasi-scientific classification. Many of Beethoven's works were also given early and mid-nineteenth-century poetic interpretations. The supposed opposition of absolute and programme music is a false dichotomy, one forged in the heat of nineteenth-century polemics. All such classifications serve overwhelmingly as hermeneutic genres. Dissatisfied with formulaic tradition and driven by mid-century demands for originality, composers often sought to produce what is called as sonata deformations.
  • 16 - Words and music in Germany and France
    pp 460-499
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    In song, poetry loses its poetic structure but retains its meanings, imagistic associations, and literary pleasures and provocations, while music both insists on its self-sufficiency and is bent to poetic analogy. Two of the later nineteenth-century's greatest German song composers, both acutely aware of what came before them, tended to shy away from song cycles: Johannes Brahms and Hugo Wolf. By the middle of the century, the German-speaking world had a rich, variegated repertory of song, from the smallest folk-like songs to sprawling through-composed ballads. The situation in France, however, was different. Aristocratic salons were the principal performance milieu for the thousands of romances composed in the 1830s and thereafter, romance being an imprecise designation for mostly strophic songs. The best French songs circa mid-century often exemplify the conundrum whereby music acts upon the poetry to warp the very language that has called it into being.
  • 17 - Chamber music and piano
    pp 500-521
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    Although chamber music, like piano music, could through the technique of arrangement be made to carry music of any genre (even Wagner's music dramas were rehearsed with piano) it has seemed to many historians of the period that there is something not only generically specific about most of its chamber music, or at least of the best chamber music of the period, but technically or compositionally specific to something like Rheinberger's chamber-orchestra-like nonet for wind and strings of 1885. The foundations for a radicalisation of tonal musical language had been laid well before the birth of the canonical composers of the late Romantic period. This chronology is not specific to chamber and piano music, the one being a relatively conservative medium perhaps, and the other being susceptible to populist exploitation. Yet the chronology is fundamental to historical interpretation and, it might be claimed, not sufficiently transparent in the general literature on Romantic music.
  • 18 - Choral culture and the regeneration of the organ
    pp 522-543
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    Most historical accounts of European choral movements in the nineteenth century note a certain loss of intensity and idealistic purpose after the revolutions of 1848. The increasing interest in restoring earlier music repertories and traditions was partly a reaction to the destructive results of revolution and partly a nostalgia for the presumed stability of the past. The general practice of church music consisted of a debased chant repertory with serpent accompaniment and a motet style derived from popular operatic genres. This chapter examines several composers and categories of composer who show a particular affinity with specific trends in religion, or with restorations of religion and religious music. The rehabilitation of the organ as an instrument for both concert and liturgical life first took place in France. The increasing importance of Bach contributed to the organ's prestige, first with the pioneering work of A. P. F. Boëly and later with the performances and editions of Charles-Marie Widor.
  • 19 - Music and social class
    pp 544-567
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    In the second half of the nineteenth century features of musical life associated with a capitalist economy and the consolidation of power of a wealthy industrial bourgeoisie became firmly established. Prominent among such features were the commercialisation and professionalisation of music, new markets for cultural goods, the bourgeoisie's struggle for cultural domination and a growing rift between art and entertainment. This chapter presents a study of music and class in four cities: London, Paris, New York and Vienna. The ideal for social reformers was a single, shared culture, uniting different classes and ethnic groups; but the reality was that the economics of cultural provision in the second half of the century necessitated focusing on particular consumers. The field of the popular culture that opened up in the nineteenth century was one in which different classes and class fractions fought over questions of intellectual and moral leadership.
  • 20 - Nations and nationalism
    pp 568-600
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    The relationship of nationalism to a parent ideology of liberalism turned out to be tragically problematic in twentieth-century history. The liberal nation-state was the construction of an ascendant bourgeoisie, and it goes without saying that it was in competition with the principle and practice of dynastic government. A comparable ambivalence concerns the centring of both an inclusive cosmopolitan culture and an exclusive national consciousness in the modern city. This chapter discusses the politics of the later nineteenth century, when the nationalist principle did some of its most energetic work. The cities promoted a cosmopolitan musical culture grounded in middle-class, mercantile values. During the second half of the nineteenth century the cultural life of Poland, Hungary and the Czech lands stood in a characteristically ambivalent relationship to west European traditions. They began to participate in the tussle of competitive nationalisms that characterised cultural life as a whole in the late nineteenth century.
  • 21 - Styles and languages around the turn of the century
    pp 601-620
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    This chapter deals with musical style and musical language around 1890, and discusses the distinction that may be drawn between the two. One of the century's most notable attempts to deploy musical language for culture-political ends dates from this time, with the declaration of the New German School. The chapter focuses on the varied florescence of styles and languages such as Don Juan, Pagliacci, the Variations on America, and En Saga. Debussy's mature music, beginning with the Prélude à l'Aprèsmidi d'un faune has frequently been seen as so innovative that it marked a new beginning. The chapter analyses the waves of innovation, which for each case has been represented by a composer who was successful at the time and whose works remain in the repertory. It also discusses the later reputations of Mahler and Sibelius, which far exceeded the extent of their public and critical success around 1900.

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

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